TOUR DE FRANCE
This was in my inbox this morning, from one cousin, by way of another. High excitement indeed!
“In case you are not current in world news, here is the unbelievable scoop. The Tour de France is going to go through Roudouallec on Wednesday. No, they are not lost. They will be on the route Lorient/Quimper for stage 5. From what has been described to me they will come from the south (Guiscriff) on the road past Kerzellec. Then enter the Bourg of Roudouallec, make a left and then make the turn on the route to St Goazec still going north. After a short while, they will turn south towards Coray and then onto Quimper.
I imagine that crowds will be coming into Roudouallec from the surrounding towns and create the biggest excitement since the US Army rolled through in 1944.”
Roudouallec? Where’s that?
Roudouallec is in Brittany, France. It’s on the Armorican peninsula immediately before Finisterre, or Land’s End, the furthest west that you can be in France
So, what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that Roudouallec is my family homestead. My father was born there in 1909, the youngest of ten children. Half of his siblings eventually came to the United States because of the deprivations of WW1 on the little farming community. Two of my father’s brothers had been gassed in that war. Nothing was the same again for those who lived there, farmers for the most part.
My father was born in a stone, mud-floored house. To lay a mud floor was considered an art back then, only done by specialized craftsmen. He came to this country when he was 17, following in the footsteps of older siblings. Throngs of Bretons came to NYC to work in the hotel industry and for Michelin Tire in New Jersey. Roudouallec and many other small towns lost large percentages of their populations. The old folks held their neighborhoods together by sheer willpower.
My father died in 2002 at the age of 93. Two years later my daughter and I took his ashes back to Roudouallec to be buried in the family vault. It was my first trip to the old country, as he had liked to call it. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t need to spell my maiden name, LeGuillou, for strangers. That was surreal enough, but even stranger was the feeling that I belonged in this one street village overshadowed by the ancient church, only a few years away from the twice-daily cow parade through the center of town. I’m sorry I missed that but, hey, can’t stop progress.
Tomorrow, instead of taking refuge from cows in the shallow doorways and side streets of Roudouallec, tourists will be watching from windows and roofs as bicyclists streak down the narrow mile-long main drag that extends from a most excellent creperie at one end to my cousin Mimi’s house at the other. This will undoubtedly be the biggest excitement since 1944.
I know that my cousins will be watching from the front yard of Mimi’s home, the first house in Roudouallec after you leave Finisterre.
I’d like to be there too.
I will be watching coverage online.